The new stationhouse at 96th St. and Broadway is now open for business. (All photos by Benjamin Kabak)
Shortly after 11 a.m. this morning, the new stationhouse in the median of Broadway between 95th St. and 96th St. opened for business. Although the station rehabilitation isn’t set to wrap up until September and the stationhouse itself is far from finished, Upper West Side commuters bound for the express stop will find it easier to access the station’s platforms and transfer between the uptown and downtown trains.
As part of the opening ceremonies, the MTA invited a slew of board officials and local representatives to tour the station and discuss the opening. The station remains very much a work in progress, but the MTA says the 40-month, $98-million project is still on time and still on budget. With the opening of the new headhouse, straphangers can now walk directly down from the fare control areas to the platforms, and no longer have to walk below the track level and then up to the platform. Eventually, the station will be fully ADA-compliant with two elevators and an access ramp to the headhouse, and the below-platform walkway will be retained as a transfer point.
During his talk with reporters, MTA Chairman and CEO spoke about the progress the authority has made in modernizing its system. The new headhouse, he said, is opening ahead of schedule because those who live on the Upper West Side have asked the MTA to make accessing this station in progress easier. “We’re proud of how far we’ve come from the dark ages,” he said, “but at the same time we’re not satisfied with the level of service we provide.”
Others were a bit more guarded with their praise. Andrew Albert, the New York City Transit Riders Council’s non-voting representative to the MTA Board, spoke forcefully to me about the juxtaposition between the MTA’s capital improvements and the looming service cuts. “I think it’s wonderful that we’re opening wonderful new stations,” he said, noting how the rehabilitation of 96th St. will make it a more user-friendly station. “But it’s a dichotomy when you consider the service to be cut running through these stations.”
Despite its in-progress state of being, the new headhouse is a vast improvement over the old cramped and decrepit entrances that marred the northern end of the system’s 27th busiest stop. The inside is now light and airy with numerous turnstiles and wide staircases. Those waiting above can spy on passengers as they board the train, and the new headhouse even has a fully-functional station booth, a rare sighting in this day and age.
Outside, granite blocks and metal benches serve as a resting spot in the pedestrian plaza on the north side at 96th St. still under construction. Still, though, the station is amidst two lanes of traffic on Broadway, and project planners have worked with the community to limit the dangers. Lois Tendler, the Vice President for Government and Community Relations, talked to me about her work with the Upper West Side Community Board and the area’s elected representatives. NYC DOT narrowed traffic lanes at 95th St., and although sidewalk width on either side of Broadway was cut back from 24 feet to 15 feet, all parties believe pedestrians will still be safe. “People cross streets all the time in New York,” Tendler said.
Meanwhile, the old entrances at the southeast and southwest corners of 96th and Broadway are now closed. Although the neighborhood may mourn the loss of those entrances, the new staircases that lead directly from the platform to the street eliminate that pesky down-up-up exit and down-down-up entrance that used to make the northern end of 96th St. so inefficient.
After the jump, a slideshow of my photos from the afternoon. You can also view the entire photoset on Flickr.